So here I am in a new team, 36 years old, a husband and dad. So why do I feel like this is the first day at school ? Might be something to do with my chronic shyness, a curious trait in a social worker as I am called on to meet new people all the time. But they are clients and these people are my colleagues. Why this should make such a difference is what is concentrating my mind as I try not to catch anyone’s eye and read the induction pack. A kind colleague takes me out on a visit with her. I discover the first advantage, for me, of working with younger people. I can talk about x-box games with them. Yes I know I’m a dork.
There is a big difference between early intervention and working in an adult care management team. While I was working with mainly older people I carried a caseload of 40-plus. The work was regimented. Make assessments, set up care, review, then if possible close. Here my caseload will never get above 12 and I will work with them for up to three years. This means I will have time to develop therapeutic relationships with people. I should be happy but it makes me nervous. I fear have I lost the skills to develop unconditional positive regard coming from the “production line” social work of older people. To me, this highlights the ageism of social work structures that value younger people more than older people. It also reminds me of the dedication of the workers who are in that field.
There is a whole new language to learn over here in the mental health field. Here are a few examples I have picked up with their English translations. “She has high expressed emotion” (she shouts a lot) “He has pressure of speech” (You can’t shut him up) and “He has ideas of reference” (he thinks the television is talking to him).
I spend the morning with a consultant on his ward round. Consultant psychiatrists have a reputation for arrogance but this consultant is kind, encouraging and does not appear to bring any judgement to his patient. He takes his time and listens to them and tries to offer honest advice. He could almost be a social worker.
My colleague has received a warning e-mail from our IT manager. Her crime was looking at cinema times. For her to go with a client in fact. We imagine the IT guy has a red phone that flashes when anybody looks at a site he deems unworthy. Why people who work in the public sector are subjected to this scrutiny puzzles me. Feels as if we are treated like children, it causes resentment and is totally counterproductive. In the afternoon we go to our leisure group, which is football this week. My ex-colleagues in adult services scoffed that this was an exercise in skiving. But it is a really worthwhile group. There is clear evidence that exercise is beneficial for people with mental health problems. It also provides a good, safe, social setting for the lads to get to know each other (it is mainly young men) as they often have problems with socialising. It also gave me a bit of much needed exercise!